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The ABCs of Diabetes and

How Lifestyle Changes Can Make a Difference


Diabetes is a chronic (long-lasting) health condition that affects how your body turns food into energy. Most of the food you eat is broken down into sugar and released into your bloodstream. When your blood sugar goes up, it signals your pancreas to release insulin. Insulin acts like a key to let the blood sugar into your body’s cells for use as energy.


If you have diabetes, your body either doesn’t make enough insulin or can’t use the insulin it makes as well as it should. When there isn’t enough insulin, or cells stop responding to insulin, too much blood sugar stays in your bloodstream. Over time, this can cause serious health problems such as heart disease, vision loss, and kidney disease.


Type 1 diabetes is thought to be caused by an autoimmune reaction (the body attacks itself by mistake) that stops your body from making insulin. Symptoms develop quickly and are usually diagnosed in children, teens, and young adults. If you have Type 1 diabetes you will need insulin every day to survive.


With Type 2 diabetes, your body doesn’t use insulin well and can’t keep blood sugar at normal levels. About 90% of people with diabetes have Type 2. It develops over many years and is usually diagnosed in adults. Many adults do not notice any symptoms, so it is important to have your blood sugar levels checked if you are at risk. Type 2 diabetes can be prevented or delayed with healthy lifestyle changes such as losing weight, eating healthy, and being active.


An estimated 23.1 million people, or 7.2% of the U.S. population, have diabetes. The prevalence among African-American women represents 13.2% of the U.S. population.




The chance of developing Type 2 diabetes depends on a combination of risk factors such as your genes and lifestyle. Risk factors include:

  • Overweight or obese

  • Age 45 or older

  • Family history of diabetes

  • High blood pressure

  • Low level of HDL(good) cholesterol, or high level of triglycerides

  • History of gestational diabetes or giving birth to a baby weighing 9 pounds or more

  • Lack of physically activity

  • History of heart disease or stroke

  • Depression

  • Polycystic ovary syndrome

  • Acanthosis nigricans — dark, thick, and velvety skin around neck or armpits




You can take steps to prevent Type 2 diabetes by losing weight if you are overweight, eating fewer calories, and increasing physical activity. Monitoring blood pressure levels, managing cholesterol levels, and maintaining an optimal weight are additional steps you can take.


Eating healthy by reducing foods high in saturated fat, trans fat, salt, and cholesterol, such as fried foods, red meats, and eggs, is also important. You should focus more on high-fiber foods such as whole grains, vegetables, and fruits.


Also try not to sit more than seven hours per day. The American Diabetes Association started a “Get Fit Don’t Sit Day” as research has shown that breaking up periods of inactivity is one of the most powerful weapons you have to prevent Type 2 diabetes. The recommendation is to get up at least every 90 minutes though many researchers recommend getting up every 20 minutes.


Diabetes increases the risk for periodontal or gum disease. Periodontal disease can lead to tooth loss, mouth infections, and a decrease in blood glucose control. There is increasing evidence for a link between periodontal disease and cardiovascular disease, which includes heart attack and stroke. Dental hygiene is an important part of diabetes care. You can prevent diabetes complications with routine dental care twice a year.




Below are a few select resources to obtain more information on diabetes, risk factors, and prevention.

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